Trust your gut on plant-based diets for heart health

In a new study, researchers found that reducing animal product intake and following a primarily plant-based diet can decrease your risk of heart disease by minimizing the adverse effects of a gut-microbiome linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease.

The research was conducted by a team at the Tulane University Obesity Research Center

The body’s gut microbiota is comprised of a series of microbes that play an important role in our metabolism, nutrient absorption, energy levels, and immune response.

A gut-microbiota related metabolite known as trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is produced when gut bacteria digest nutrients commonly found in animal products such as red meat.

It has been connected to increased heart attack and coronary heart disease (CHD) risk.

Maintaining a vegan or vegetarian diet has been found to reduce the amount of TMAO produced in the body.

The study examined 760 women aged 30 to 55 years old in the Nurses’ Health Study.

Women were asked to report data on dietary patterns, smoking habit, and physical activity, plus other demographic data and provide two blood samples taken at Cleveland Clinic, 10 years apart.

The team found women who developed CHD had higher concentrations of TMAO levels, higher BMI, a family history of heart attack and did not follow a healthy diet including a higher intake of vegetables and a lower intake of animal products.

Women with the largest increases in TMAO levels across the study had a 67% higher risk of CHD.

Every increase in TMAO was associated with a 23% increase in CHD risk.

The team says diet is one of the most important modifiable risk factors to control TMAO levels in the body.

The findings show that decreasing TMAO levels may contribute to reducing the risk of CHD, and suggest that gut-microbiomes may be new areas to explore in heart disease prevention.

One author of the study is Lu Qi, MD, director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Center.

The study is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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